The Youth-Prince enters the fairy tale from the Land of Dreams on the same side of the river as the Land of Spirit. He is found on a path leading from the Ferryman’s dock by the Old Woman. He is very distracted and not really aware of his surroundings. The Old Woman’s persistent questioning brings the Youth out of his preoccupation and she learns of his story.
He has dreamed of, and met, with a lady called the Beautiful Lily, and he has lost his heart. Strangely, he has seemed to have awakened from his dream and remained conscious in the Land of Dreams. This is an uncommon situation. Returning on the Ferryman’s boat he is now searching for his true love. When he learns that he has returned to the wrong side of the river a great despair comes over him.
The Giant in this story represents man at it’s base level, focused on survival and not at all concerned about others. The Old Man represents a spiritual, consciously aware individual who seems to be the go-to guardian angle and guide to personal growth. The Youth-Prince is positioned between these two book-ends. He is dealing with life, searching to find himself as well as greater meaning in his life. He represents “us.” A work in progress. As such, he finds himself vacillating between despair and elation as he moves through each crises to reach a new, temporary, relief point. He persists, with much help from others, and does reach his goal. He has intent, a vision, and persistence. He also finds that there are always others willing to help him because he tries to help himself. The Youth-Prince becomes symbolic of Goethe’s efforts to find his own soul-self purpose and position in the Universe.